Tindersticks, Vienna Arena, 4 December 2008

A great pleasure and a relief to see Tindersticks live again after so long (five years, by my reckoning, my last time having been the Old Market in Hove in 2003), when at one stage it looked distinctly unlikely that they would ever perform together again. Inevitably something has been lost with the line-up changes. It’s not the same without Dickon Hinchcliffe, for one thing, and of course the new album doesn’t measure up to anything they did with the old line-up. This is not just the disgruntled bleat of a long-time fan who hates change. I’ve lived with The Hungry Saw for months now, and the fact of the matter is that it is sadly lacking in the melodic inventiveness and sense of bruised drama that every Tindersticks album up to now has luxuriated in.

As expected, this sense of disappointment translated fairly accurately into the live setting. The group knocked out dutiful renditions of every song on the album, but the guts, emotion and romance that I have grown to love Tindersticks for were only present in the pre-Hungry Saw songs. On the other hand, the upheaval has clearly lifted a weight from Staples’ shoulders; I’ve never seen him smile more often during a concert.

An irate footnote to wish no thanks at all to the girl with short dark hair near me who talked in a loud voice to her friends throughout the entire show, including the quiet songs. At the end of the main set Staples even commented on her rudeness, saying “it’s been great playing for you… except for the woman down there.” But she can’t have been listening. She just kept on talking.

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